The following is an excerpt from the first Joe Banks novel, LAKE EFFECT. I hope you enjoy it.
Sharon Dellaplante pushed the double-stroller through the slushy snow in the mall parking lot. The loaded bags of clothes and toys dangled in front of her from a small hook hung from the stroller’s handle. Her son, David, sat in the front seat and stuck his tongue out to catch snowflakes as they fell gently from the frigid December night sky. Sarah, her baby, sat in the rear, her eyes and nose the only things visible from beneath her winter clothes. A gust of wind coupled with a patch of black ice to provide some additional excitement as they made their way to their minivan. She pulled the stroller to the driver’s side of the van, using the key fob remote to unlock the doors. She pulled her jacket sleeve up and her glove down to glance at her watch. It was almost ten o’clock, way past the kids’ bedtime. She cursed herself, and Christmas, under her breath as she unhooked David from the stroller and urged him to climb up into his car-seat. She repeated the process for Sarah, placing her in the seat before strapping her in. She finished getting David settled, and produced two sippy-cups of chocolate milk for them to enjoy on the ride home. On a good night, it might take them forty-five minutes to get home. This night, well, who knew? The kids would be asleep before they got home.
Sharon closed the door against the winter chill, and pushed the stroller and all the presents to the back of the van. She lifted the rear gate and put the presents and the stroller inside. Carefully, she started back to the driver’s side door. She felt herself being grabbed roughly from behind. Survival instinct took over. She brought the heel of her boot down hard against what she assumed was her attacker’s shin, scraping along the bone and jamming into the foot. She heard a shout of pain, as well as her own screams, followed by the release of her arms as the man fell backwards. She bolted forward, charging for the van door.
A second man came at her from around the front of the van, his face covered by what looked like a ski mask. He swung fast and hard, slammed her shoulder and spun her sideways, knocked her down into the snow and the slush. She felt the freezing wetness spread against the heat of her panic. She tried to stand up, and was grabbed again by the first man. He raised his fist above her head, and was about to take his painful shin out on her, when the other one shouted to him from the open driver’s door, “Never mind the bitch! We just want the ride.”
At that she felt herself being lifted and tossed like a rag doll over the snow bank that ringed the parking lot, landing hard on her back and sliding down away from her car. She heard the men shouting and laughing, then the motor turning over. She flipped herself up to her feet, and scrambled up the short icy slope in time to see the van lurch backward, then forward again and away.
“David!” she screamed through the nearly empty parking lot. “Sarah!”